Designer Desire: Sheila Bownas

Mosaic of Sheila Bownas textile designs | H is for Home

What a coincidence that, just a week after our trip to the Yorkshire Dales, we’re featuring one of its local creatives.

Sheila Bownas (1925-2007) was a fine artist and surface pattern designer from the village of Linton in Craven near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. In 1946, she won a scholarship to London’s Slade School of Fine Art where she won further awards which included a year’s extension to study History of Art in Florence. She freelanced as a textile and wallpaper designer for companies such as Liberty and Co., Marks and Spencer and Laura Ashley. She also worked for the Natural History Museum in the 1960s, creating botanical studies. She returned to Linton in the 1970s, where she settled unobtrusively for the rest of her life. She was the only child of the village shopkeepers, she never married nor had children of her own.

Some of Sheila Bownas’ design archive was rediscovered by Chelsea Cefai, an art gallery professional, when it came up for sale at an auction house in Ilkley in 2008. Cefai purchased some 210 of her original textile pattern prints and slowly set about researching the designer and celebrating her designs.

Bonas was indefatigable in her efforts to secure salaried employment. She apparently applied for around jobs in the 1950s and 60s. In 1959 in yet another rejection letter, this time from Crown Wallpaper, Bonas was told:

Thank you for your letter enclosing your design… I have decided to retain this design so would you please let us have your invoice? With reference to your desire to obtain a position in our studio, the Director feels that should an appointment be made at all, a male designer would be preferable…

Last summer, a retrospective of her work was shown at Rugby Art Gallery & Museum and is currently showing at Harrogate’s Mercer Art Gallery until 7th January 2018. If you’re unable to make it, a catalogue of the exhibition is available.

Cefai has set about collaborating with artists & designers reintroducing Bonas’ work in limited-edition prints, furniture, ceramics and other homewares.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Cefai shared:

It’s been hard work and there have been times when I felt like giving up but then I feel like it’s something I have to do. I love her work and it saddens me to think that an artist with such wonderful talent could so easily slip through the net of recognition That’s what drives me. Sheila Bownas is not just a number in a file now, she’s a name in the limelight.

Have a look at the Sheila Bownas website for many more of her wonderful designs.

Portrait of Sheila Bownascredit

Additional image credits:

The Guardian | The Northern Echo

Vintage Fabric Pieces

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collection of vintage fabric pieces drying on a washing line

A couple of years ago we blogged about a great haul of unused vintage fabric, most of which was still on the roll.

patchwork of four different fabric pieces

At the same time, we got three large bags of vintage fabric pieces which have been sitting in our loft ever since. The fabric dates from the 1950s and most of it had already been made up into seat covers.

patchwork of four different fabric pieces

They’re unused though and there are some lovely patterns amongst them, so perfect for crafting projects…

patchwork of four different fabric pieces

…big enough for cushion panels, light shades or some kind of patchwork, maybe.

patchwork of four different fabric pieces

We’ve given them all a quick wash – they certainly brightened up a grey Pennine day when they were hanging out to dry.

collection of vintage fabric pieces drying on a washing line

We’re taking them down to our antiques centre pitch, priced at £5 each. So if you’re near Todmorden, pop in for a rummage! We can also pop them in the post if there’s anything that catches your eye from the photos.

Charity Vintage: Op art curtains

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vintage op art curtains for sale on eBay for Charity in support of Age UK South Lakeland
(ends 3 Oct, 2013 19:20:17 BST)

There are 2 pairs of these fantastic vintage op art curtains for sale on eBay for Charity this week. 100% of the final price goes to Age UK South Lakeland* (one of our favourite parts of the country!). If you’re not after a pair of curtains (each pair is being sold as a separate lot) the fabric would be great for turning into cushions, a bedspread/duvet cover, tablecloth or even a dress or skirt! Each curtain measures a very generous 61 inches long by 67 inches wide.

*Age UK South Lakeland offers help and support to older people living in the rural community of South Lakeland, enabling them to retain their independence and choice. They have: A commitment to volunteering and campaigning and providing services to all people aged over 50.

Vintage Fabric Redux

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collection of vintage fabric from the 1950s hanging on a washing line

We’ve just received another consignment of vintage fabrics from our long-time friend Shaun. They’re in pristine condition, but a bit musty – here’s a selection airing in the garden.

As with the last lot of vintage fabric, they’ve laid untouched in a warehouse for about 50 years. This batch includes short lengths, remnants, single curtains, cushion covers etc etc. Again they date from the 1950s/60s and are a mixture of abstract, atomic and florals.

We’ve done a little slideshow of favourites for all you vintage fabric fans – in addition to an airing they’ll obviously need a good iron!

They’re a myriad of sizes, so we’ll list them individually over the coming weeks & months – they’ll be perfect for all manner of crafty projects.

Material World

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Large number of vintage fabric bolts | H is for Home

What a boot full of booty!!

large number of vintage fabric bolts stuffed into the boot of our car

Unbelievably, we’ve just acquired approximately 40 bolts of vintage fabric.

large number of vintage fabric bolts

It all dates from the 1950s & 60s.

bolt of vintage David Whitehead fabric still wrapped in its original brown paper and address label

Most of them are unused – some still have their original labels & packaging. It’s so rare to discover original vintage textiles like this – especially in this quantity.

large number of vintage fabric bolts

A friend of ours works in the textiles. He has a friend, also in the trade, who was clearing one of his storage areas. Lurking at the back was all this fabric – bought by his father – which had lain there untouched for 50 or 60 years. A real fabric collectors dream!

large number of vintage fabric bolts

Each bolt measures between 30 & 60 yards in length.

large number of vintage fabric bolts

There are some fantastic patterns.

large number of vintage fabric bolts

…period designs featuring flowers & fruit, geometric shapes and even space galaxies.

group of vintage monotone fabric bolts

Some bold & bright, some monochrome.

close up of vintage monotone fabric bolt

We’ve only had the fabric for a few days and haven’t started identifying designers as yet – having said that, there are lots still with original David Whitehead labels…

close up of vintage David Whitehead fabric with rose pattern

…a prominent textile manufacturer from this period.

close up of vintage David Whitehead fabric with leaf pattern

We’re pretty sure that a good number of the ones without labels intact are by them too.

close up of vintage fabric with pink and grey stripe and embossed flower pattern

Here’s a quartet of David Whitehead adverts; we often come across them in vintage magazines from the 50s & 60s.

four vintage magazine adverts for Davis Whitehead fabrics

We’ll be putting the fabric up for sale in the coming weeks. Some we’ll sell as long fabric lengths in our Picture House Antiques pitch – some we’ll sell by the metre in our webshop and Etsy & Folksy and eBay outlets.

close up of vintage David Whitehead fabric with fruit pattern

A once in a lifetime find… many thanks to Shaun!!!